Ľudovít Jelenák — A Nitra Motive

Ľudovít Jelenák’s works feature balanced compositions, darker palettes where the predominating colour is black with flashing brighter tones, bold outlines and rich brush strokes.

Inventory No.: O 98
Artist: Ľudovít Jelenák
Title: A Nitra Motive
Year: 1965
Technique: oil
Material: canvas
Dimensions: height 102 cm; width 64 cm
Signature: top right: Jelenák 65

Ľudovít Jelenák’s works feature balanced compositions, darker palettes where the predominating colour is black with flashing brighter tones, bold outlines and rich brush strokes. His oeuvre includes paintings of nature and the countryside, agricultural motives, urban vistas and portraits, especially of women – of different professions, in various moods, both mothers and maidens. He had worked on several monumental architectural realisations in the form of frescos, mosaics and marquetries in Nitra (e.g. a glass mosaic in a university dormitory, stained glass in the former Hotel Slovan, a ceramic relief in Furmanská vináreň [Wagoner’s Wine Tavern]), but also in Topoľčany, Bánovce nad Bebravou, Partizánske or Komárno.

There are numerous panoramic views Nitra and its Castle in Nitra Gallery’s collection. However, the oil on canvas titled A Nitra Motive deserves our attention for several reasons. The castle is captured from the public park at Sihoť looking from below, thus making its appearance truly monumental. Much like Jelenák’s other Nitra motives, this picture was inspired by his long strolls through the town. One of the key features here is connecting the past with the present together with the then state of society and, most of all, the fact that Jelenák had decided to incorporate a work by another well-known Nitra artist and sculptor Tibor Bartfay into the painting. The sculptural group titled Protest Against the War was unveiled just a year before the painting was created, in the turbulent period of the Cold War. It depicts a standing mother protecting her three children cheerfully playing behind her back. In 2008, the group underwent a major modification – the pedestal was replaced and the children were cast from bronze (the original sculptures were made of patinated epoxide which is not so resilient). In June 2020, the sculpture of the mother was removed for restoration purposes and it will also be replaced with a bronze cast.

Besides the sculptural group, the painting also depicts two silhouettes of unknown characters – can you spot them?

Ľudovít Jelenák was born on October 30, 1920 in Merašice, near Hlohovec. From 1951 to 1956, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava at the Department of Figural and Compositional Painting under professors Ján Želibský, Ladislav Čemický and Ján Mudroch. From 1959 to 1988, he worked at the Faculty of Education in Nitra, mostly as the head of the Department of Fine Art Education which he had founded. In 1962, he received the title of Associate Professor. He was a member of the Union of Slovak Fine Artists in Bratislava. He died on October 9, 1999 in Nitra.

Omar Mirza
November 2020